Episode 42: Eight Immortals 4 –LvDongBin

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Today we will keeping talking about the fourth immortal in the Eight Immortals 八仙. He has the most stories that people like to talk about and some famous Chinese says based on his stories. His name is Lv DongBin 吕洞宾, a poet, scholar and Taoist immortal, who represents the male. His images vary a lot but mostly he is depicted as a scholar bearing a sword on his back.

Lv Dongbin learned Tao from Zhong Liquan 钟离权, which is another immortal in the Eight Immortals we talked about before. There is a story about Lv Dongbin was tested by Zong Liquang ten times before Zhong Liquan decided to take Lv Dong bin as his disciple. The first test was one day, Lv Dongbin came back home and found all of his families were dying from diseases. He didn’t show any sadness or regret and started prepare the funerals. However, not too long, all the families came to alive. He didn’t show any joy either. So he passed the first trail. The second test was one day Lv Dongbin was selling goods in a market. A buyer bargained with him, however, after agreeing on the price, the buyer only paid half of price. Lv Dongbin didn’t get annoyed let him take the product. So he passed the second trail. The third test was on the Chinese New Year, Lv Dongbin saw a beggar at his door. After being offered some money, the beggar kept asking more and talked with vulgar words. Lv Dongbin treated him with smile. So he passed the third trail. The fourth test was when Lv Dongbin shepherded goats, there was a hungry tiger chasing the goats. He helped the goats escape to the downhill and stood between the tiger and the goats. The tiger was awed and left. So he passed the fourth trail. The fifth test was when Lv Dongbin studied in a small house in the mountains, a beautiful lady stopped by and asked if she could stay for the night since she got lost. During the night, the lady tried to flirt and seduce him, Lv Dongbin wasn’t moved by any temptation. So he passed the fifth trail. The sixth test was one day Lv Dongbin came back home and found he had been burglarized and lost all of his belongings. Instead of getting depressed or telling the police, he went back to work in the farm. As he was digging the land, he found a lot of gold. Guess what he did? He uncovered the gold without taking any. So he passed the sixth trail. The seventh test was Lv Dongbin bought some bronze containers from the market and found them all made of gold at home. He immediately returned them to the seller. So he passed the seventh trail. The eighth test was that there was a mad Taoist priest selling medicine on the streets telling people that his magic pills would let people die immediately while become immortal in the next life. No one would dare to try except Lv Dongbin. He took the potion and never happened to him. So he passed the eighth trail. The ninth test was Lv Dongbin was on a boat with other people on a flooded river. In the middle of the river, it started becoming super windy. Everyone started screaming and scared to death except him. He was peacefully sitting at his spot and not even moved. So he passed the ninth trail. The last test the tenth test was one day Lv Dongbin was alone at home and something weird happened. He saw ghosts and demons fighting with each other. He didn’t pay much attention. Another group of devils came with a bloody person they just got, yelling to Lv Dongbin, “you killed me in your previous life, Now it’s time for you to redeem it.” Lv Dongbin said without anything changed on his face, “go ahead to take my life. It is fair.” Suddenly all the ghosts and demons disappered. Zhong Liquan, his teacher showed up and laughed. These tests proved Lv Dongbin was a pure and dignified person with inner peace. So after all this, Lv Dongbin passed all of his teacher’s tests and left with his teacher to Mountain Zhongnan 钟南山where they practice Tao.

The reason Zhong Liquan tested Lv Dongbin was that he met Lv Dongbin on a trip in Changan长安. Through their conversations, he found Lv DongBin could be a great Taoist. While they were staying in a hotel, Zhong Liquan started cooking yellow millet for both of them. Lv Dongbin fell asleep. He had a dream that he got the first place in the imperial exam and was awarded a prestigious position in the government. He was extremely successful in his career and finally became the prime minister just below the emperor. In the household, he had beautiful wives and a lot of kids and grand kids. After ten years, he got sabotaged and was accused of crimes that in the end he lost everything: his job, his families and his wealth. He was standing alone on the street in an old age, shivering when he woke up from the dream. Zhong Liquan’s yellow millet was still not ready to eat. Zhong Liquan saw Lv Dongbin waking up and said a poem : 黄粱犹未熟,一梦到华 胥, which means many years has passed in a dream during the time the yellow millet is cooked. Lv Dongbin was surprised that Zhong Liquan knew about his dream. Zhong Liquan tried to tell him life is like a dream. There is no need people put too much importance on success or failure. There is nothing need to be happy or sad about in life. That’s when Lv Dongbin decided to follow Zhong Liquan and study Tao. This story can be found in the book ZhenZhongJi 枕中记, while the character were different though. Later people used this story as Lv DongBin’s story. There are a lot of stories of Lv Dongbin were actually not originally about him. However, since he is too popular, people just use him as the main characters in them.

吕洞宾2

There is a famous saying with his name in it: 狗咬吕洞宾 不识 好人心, a dog biting Lv Dongbin is not able to recognize a kind-heart person, which means the goodness of a person is of no consequence to the ungrateful. There are a few version about where this saying is from. I will just tell one version here. After Lv Dongbin became an immortal, he saw a man drawing in the river when he passed by. He saved the body from the river and replaced his heart with a dog’s heart. Yeah, he killed the dog first to save the man. The man came to life, instead of being thankful, he yelled at Lv DongBin that he wanted to die himself and why did he save him. Lv Dongbin then made a heart for the dog out of mud. The dog came to life and bit him. So what he did neither satisfy to man or the dog.

After all kind of myths about Lv Dongbin, in the history he is considered as a Taoist scholar, a poet, a sword master and so on.

Mentioned:

八仙 Eight Immortals

吕洞宾 Lv DongBin

钟离权 Zhong Liquan

枕中记 ZhenZhongJi

 

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